From the opening track ‘Conscious Soul Rebel’, you know the latest album by Aotearoa reggae RnB group NRG Rising is going to be hot, smoky and sweet. Like sweet chili sauce on hangi potatoes during a perfect East Coast day. Featuring a lilting cameo by Che Fu, this track has good summer loving written all over it.

You may not have been to Wairoa, a small, scenic town nestled on State Highway 2 beneath the Mahia Peninsula, but by now, you should have heard of their most famous residents NRG Rising.

Nga Kahungunu and Tuhoe descended Benita Tahuri and her daughters Anahera and Honey have been slaying hearts with their rootsy mother and daughter sound since 2009. They lead a group of solid local musicians backing up their flawless harmonizing and intelligent lyrics. NRG have performed with Aotearoa reggae greats like Katchafire and Cornerstone Roots and continue to receive high praise and international recognition in Indigenous musical circles.

What really strikes me about this album is their waiata. These beautiful wahine can sing! You can’t help but nod your head to the rhythms. ‘Take Us High’ really represents their RnB chops and is silky and gorgeous. I like the addition of some vinyl static on the tracks intro, like you just picked up this jam from the record store back in ‘93! The title track is also a smooth, soothing RNB anthem that confirms just how well they can groove.

One of my favourite is ‘The One I Adore’, with newcomer Lion Rezz standing in. This would fit in seamlessly on a playlist of the greatest love tunes of Katchafire and House of Shem.

Strident above the walking bassline on ‘Who is to Know’, the ladies step it up some more and bring the strength and power of voices fine-tuned among critical audiences on the marae, perhaps. They also bring some fine chanting: ‘The flame blazes with power’, indeed!

Indigenous reggae activist Carlos Lomavesya appears on their track ‘Mr Hopiman’. No doubt incepted during their 2012 tour of New Mexico, Turtle Island (USA), where they were also performing guests at the Gathering of Nations Powwow.

It is telling this group has nourished an international indigenous connection, and continue to hold strong to their wish to uplift their community with a conscious musical message. Proceeds from their 2012 track ‘Homeland Security’ were donated to Te Kotahi, a Tuhoe Trust, so they have put their money where their mouths are in support of activism too!

It is great to hear Silva MC in ‘New You’, a track that starts with some cute rocksteady vibes and endorses new beginnings and transformation. Also appreciated is the riff nod to Soul II Soul’s classic ‘Back to Life’. I personally love that this group shout out their influences in 90’s RnB and have incorporated that vocal style seamlessly.

Of course ‘Revelation Steppers’ is a highlight, featuring the album’s executive producer Israel Starr, with timely and sobering lyrics professing Rastafarianism and Hopi prophecy. It decries environmental despoliation and reminds that these disasters were foreseen by First Nations, well prior to modern times. A pertinent message, as it is ironically still the indigenous putting their bodies on the line in defence of Earth, Forest and Water. This track has a meaty, head-nodding digital sound reminiscent of early Black Uhuru and a visually stunning music video shot in New Mexico’s canyon country.

As a live act to see, NRG present a uniquely Aotearoa treat by incorporating traditional Maori stylings. ‘Tanerore’ is also one of my favourite tracks on the album. It is a perfect marriage to hear reggae in Te Reo (more please) and Benita gives it her all on solo vocals.

NRG Rising weave a strong family talent and positive vibration to have survived this long in the music scene. Put your feet up, amp the volume and take the party on a ‘Love Ride’. Real love and love of self that is! I wish them all the best for an upcoming tour to promote the album! Check it! Ka Pai!

More info:
NRG Rising website
NRG Rising Facebook
Israel Starr Music